Liberal Arts and Sciences Year Abroad

The Year Abroad is a compulsory part of your degree and provides you with a unique opportunity to develop and expand your academic interests, whilst becoming fully integrated into the life and culture of the country you visit.

During your Year Abroad, you will study modules in the host University but you will remain a student of the University of Birmingham. You therefore become an ambassador for both the University and the School of Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences. Staff on our programme are confident that you will have a wonderful time and we encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunities the Year Abroad affords.

Where can I go?

In principle, you are free to apply to any of the 150+ universities across the world with which the University of Birmingham has an exchange agreement.

Learn more about destinations and the role of the International Office.

Erasmus Exchanges vs International Exchanges

The University of Birmingham participates in the EU-funded Erasmus Student Exchange Programme, created to promote exchanges between institutions within the EU. An Erasmus exchange often requires study in a foreign language, but in some cases (e.g. Amsterdam, Belfast, Dublin, Lund, Leiden and Utrecht) teaching is offered in English.

All other International Exchanges are based on individual agreements signed between the University of Birmingham and the host institution.

The Erasmus and International exchange schemes offer the same opportunities but the administrative and funding mechanisms mean that there are two key differences relating to how you apply and finance.

Erasmus Exchanges

Erasmus Exchanges are managed by the Department of Modern Languages, with the exception of Amsterdam, Belfast, Dublin, Lund, Leiden and Utrecht, which are managed by the International Office.

The Year Abroad Tutor of the language concerned will provide you with the internal deadline relevant to that particular country and the appropriate application form. As with the International Exchanges, you will have the opportunity to choose particular destinations within the country you will be visiting. There is no requirement for a reference.

You will submit your application for your Erasmus Year Abroad just before Christmas in your second year. Allocation of places will be communicated to students by the end of January.

International Exchanges

International Exchanges are managed by the University’s International Office.

Applications are submitted online by the end of November of your second year. You will be asked to list your preferred choice of institutions and your application must be supported by a personal statement which explains why you have chosen them.

The International Office will then allocate students depending on a range of factors including:

  • Academic need - students may have to attend a particular institution because they need to acquire subject-specific credits for their degree. For instance, in order to exit with a Natural Sciences qualification, you may need to take science-related modules during your Year Abroad.
  • Personal interests - this may involve participating in sporting or cultural activities.
  • Specific personal needs.
  • Academic performance - there will inevitably be stronger demand for certain institutions and your academic performance (i.e. your Year 1 grade average) will be used to determine who will be offered places in those institutions.

Allocation of students to partner universities will normally be made by the end of January.

No-one is guaranteed a place in any particular institution and you should give careful consideration to your preferred choices. If you choose a range of universities from among the most popular destinations, you run the risk of not being allocated to any of them and being allocated to one for which you have not expressed a preference.  

Financial implications

As the Year Abroad is an integral part of your degree programme, UK students continue to receive financial support for fees and students loans as in other years of study. You will only pay 15% of the student fees applicable for that academic year to the University of Birmingham. You will have no financial obligation with the host university.

However, as is the case while studying at Birmingham, you will be responsible for your own travel and subsistence costs. This is something you should consider carefully before making your final decision about where you would like to go.

Brexit negotiations mean that the participation of the UK in the Erasmus scheme post 29 March 2019 and the availability of Erasmus grants are currently under discussion with the EU. In the event of a no deal Brexit, students will still be able to apply to study on exchange placements with our EU or international partners, but Erasmus funding from the British Council may no longer be available. If you have any queries on how Brexit may affect Erasmus funding for which you have applied please contact the Study Abroad and Exchanges Team (

Learn more about funding

Picking your destination

Given the wide range of choices available to you for your Year Abroad, you need to think very carefully about the choices you make. The School and colleagues in the International Office are here to help, but we cannot answer detailed questions about all of the programmes and modules in all of our partner institutions. This means that you will have to spend a significant amount of time researching the possibilities.

In making your decisions, you should take the following factors into account:

  • Academic requirements of your major(s) which you should discuss with the relevant department and your tutor.
  • Range of programmes and modules available at the universities to which you are interested in applying.
  • Travel and living costs.
  • Term dates.
  • Your first year average mark.

Remember that Erasmus and International exchange students at Birmingham, as well as returning year abroad students, are an excellent source of information to help you make your decision.

Preparations for Year Abroad

The key timetable of events leading up to you going on your Year Abroad is as follows:

Year 1 - Exam Term - Preliminary Meeting - a general introduction to the Year Abroad, and to invite you to begin to do some research about where you might like to go in preparation for the decisions you have to take in the first semester of your second year.

Year 2 - Semester 1 - Presentation from a member of the International Office about the process of selection and general advice about the Year Abroad. You will also attend an Individual Tutorial Meeting to speak with your tutor. You will then submit your Year Abroad Application to the International Office for International Exchanges and/or Department of Modern Languages for Erasmus Exchanges.

Year 2 - Exam Term / Summer Vacation - Before you leave to begin your year abroad, you will be asked to complete and submit a Year Abroad Learning Agreement, which lists the modules you will register for and which have been agreed by the host university.

Staying in touch

While abroad, you can stay in contact with our staff by email. You will also be expected to take part in a Skype meeting with your personal tutor once a month at a time suitable to you both. This will help to assure us that you are doing well and assist you in getting the most out of your time abroad.

Learn more about our compulsory Year Abroad

For more information about the Year Abroad, including possible destinations, funding and application information, please visit the university's Year Abroad webpage.